'It's Devastating' Woman Scammed out of Thousands in Nationwide Scheme

CBS 58-- A scam targeting seniors is hitting across the country and right here in Wisconsin.

The Better Business Bureau says hundreds of thousands of dollars have been swindled. This isn't a single phone call or email asking for money, it's an elaborate scheme aimed at people in need of cash. like Beverly Ashford of Franksville, 

Ashford is retired and lives in an old home passed down through her family. When it needed repairs, she wasn't sure where to turn.

“The hot water tanks, all the stuff downstairs started breaking down,” Ashford said.

Ashford's costs were mounting, then the phone rang.

“A person called me, talking about giving grants and how you qualify for it,” Ashford said.

Soon she started getting packets of information about internet investment opportunities and cash grants.

“They're so convincing and it’s a rush, rush situation,” Ashford said. “They give you timeline when to send it in, you don’t wanna miss that window.”

Within about a month, Ashford sent in three payments, totaling about $2000. Then suddenly the company stopped answering Ashford's calls.

“It was devastating because I'm retired now and I don't have money to just give away,” Ashford said. “Usually I'm more savvy of things like that, but they were so convincing and they had all the right answers.”

The Better Business Bureau Serving Wisconsin says this internet investment scam, which promises money through online advertising, targets seniors and is happening nationwide. There are about 140 documented cases, nine of the victims are in Wisconsin.

“They would get all their money back and then they'd get royalty checks. And not one time has ever been paid to anybody in this scam,” said Jim Temmer, President and CEO of the BBB Serving Wisconsin.

The scammers use several different company names. There are even websites set up to make it look legitimate.

“As fast as one website can get shut down, another one can go up,” Temmer said.

The BBB recommends several steps to avoid becoming a victim including: research the company, ask for references, talk to family or friends about it and check the BBB website.

Temmer also says to watch for immediate red flags like if someone calls you, unsolicited and guarantees a return on the investment.

“If we have people in our circles, maybe someone who's elderly, to talk about how they can prevent themselves from being scammed,” Temmer said.

Ashford says she learned a costly and disheartening lesson, she hopes others can learn from.

“People worked all their lives to try to accumulate something in this lifetime and then there are people out here who wanna do nothing but take from you,” Ashford said.

Ashford is still hoping to get her money back somehow, but the BBB says because the scammers lie about everything including names, phone numbers, it's very hard to track them down.

If you think you've been a victim or you want details about how to protect yourself, you can find them by clicking here.

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